Administrator finding psychotic screamer in the rafters of the hospital:
Administrator: "JC! It's 'God'! What are you doing?"
'God': "I'm watching over my flock"
Admin: "You're smoking."
'God': "I'm God. I can do two things at once."
When I was a child living in Israel, circa Bar Mitzvah age, I remember going down to the corner grocery store and getting beer, malt beer, Nesher was the brand to the best of my memory although there were competitors. I looked it up and found out that Nesher is the oldest Israeli beer company from pre-state 1935. Who knew I was drinking history?
!מה הקשר? בירה נשר What do you hear? Eagle’s Beer!
Why an eagle?
Since the time of our Torah portion, the image of God delivering the Israelites on Eagle’s Wings has been a compelling metaphor. In the early years of the State of Israel when Yemenite Jews were airlifted from danger, they had never seen an airplane before but knew their Bible by heart. They imagined they were being transported on Eagle’s Wings by God.
However compelling the imagery, rabbinic scholars disagree about which moment in the Exodus story is being referenced. Most assume contextually that it is the miraculous crossing of the Sea of Reeds. Others associated the Eagles with the Fire Cloud of God that normally would lead the Israelites from place to place but for one essential moment formed a barrier between the Egyptian soldiers and the Israelites as they made their escape. The cloud was like the Eagle carrying its young on its wings protected from predators who would have had to fly or attack from below.
For those of us living in the relative comfort of the United States, what does the Eagle mean to us other than the Bald Eagle’s symbolism for the country in which we live (a species that is not shared by Israel)?
I would argue that Shabbat is the 21st Century Nesher of the First World, a cloud that can protect us from the slings and arrows of incessant tweets and outrageous posts, guiding us safely through an oasis of good food, song and perhaps some good wine to aid digestion and joy. The word for Eagle in Hebrew, Nesher, seems to be related to its letting go of feathers and growing new ones. Similarly Shabbat allows us to discard the used up feathers of the week we have survived and grow resilient new plumes for the week to come.
Finally, there is one opinion that differs from most regarding the meaning of the eagle metaphor. There are those who believe that it’s not the physical protection of the Israelites but their consolidation prior to leaving Egypt in Ramses from all the other parts of Egypt where they were enslaved, Pitom at least.
And that’s the best part of a Shabbat well lived. Being together, knowing that whatever the world might throw at us, we will be able to confront it together.